Is the Autonomous Region Using an Iraqi Decision as Cover for Expulsions?
Apr 23, 2024 670

Is the Autonomous Region Using an Iraqi Decision as Cover for Expulsions?

Font Size

On April 17, Syria’s Kurdish-dominated Autonomous Administration announced the arrival of the first group of Syrians to be expelled from Iraq following a government decision to prosecute and arrest foreigners who violate residency rules. The statement confirmed that the deportees were Syrians from areas controlled by the Syrian regime, and that it would duly transfer them back to those areas following their arrival from Iraq.  

However, despite the administration’s statement, the Iraqi government has made no recent announcements of deportations to the de facto autonomous region, controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Moreover, Baghdad usually expels deportees by air, to Damascus International Airport. If were to use the land route, the handover would be likely to take place at the Al-Bukamal / Rabia border crossing, controlled by Syrian regime and Iraqi forces.  

Moreover, the Autonomous Administration, run by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has not issued any images of the supposed transfer, as it had in similar deportation or transfer operations in the past, such as the transfer of Iraqi families from Al-Hawl camp to Iraq, in coordination with the Iraqi government.  

It appears, then, that the statement was a ruse aimed at exploiting Iraqi Federal Government and Kurdistan Regional Government decisions against Syrian refugees to provide cover for its own expulsions. Over the past month or so, the de facto authorities have been sending Syrians who have lived for years in SDF areas back to regime or opposition-held areas on the grounds that they do not have the required residency cards, which the Administration imposes on all Syrians wishing to enter the region.  

In March 2024, regional authorities launched a sweeping campaigns of residency checks in Al-Hasakah Governorate, deporting a number of Syrian individuals and families residing in areas under its control, but who were born elsewhere. Several families from the Albu Hamad clan residing in the village of Umm al-Fursan in the Qamishli countryside were deported to the Khanaser area of southern Aleppo province. There are also unconfirmed reports of families from the Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor governorates residing in Al-Hasakah also being deported, despite not even having broken the Autonomous Administration’s laws on residency cards, as they had come from SDF-controlled areas, albeit outside Al-Hasakah.  

Therefore, it appears that the region’s authorities saw the Iraqi decision to deport Syrians as an opportunity to intensify its own expulsions, which it has been carrying out intermittently over time under several pretexts. These include banning residents of Deir ez-Zor province from entering or residing in Al-Hasakah without a sponsor from the latter region, prosecuting them on charges of being linked with the Islamic State group, and seizing buildings to set up military posts—mostly in Al-Hasakah, where the Kurdish-dominated SDF appears keen to reduce the Arab population, or at least ensure that it does not grow.  

It is also notable that most supporters of the Democratic Union Party, which runs the administration, and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) still refuse to accept the presence of people from Raqqa whose lands were flooded when the Euphrates Dam was built and who were compensated with agricultural lands and housing in Al-Hasakah, decades ago.